Adult Tonsillectomy Surgery and Recovery
Having experienced a constant sore throat for roughly two years, it was finally decided, at long last, that something had to be done about it. What could be done, no one was exactly sure of – however, despite not actually having a proper case of tonsillitis before, it was decided the best “experiment” would be to get my tonsils out.
I’d never had any kind of surgery before, and I was nothing short of terrified. Despite not being particularly squeamish, the thought of even the smallest of needles is enough to make me feel ill, let alone the thought of having a part of my body taken out. Hospitals up until this point had always been strange and foreign to me, I hadn’t even imagined myself in a hospital bed. This all sounds dramatic but that’s how I was, I was terrified to the point where we called the doctor to postpone it and were lucky to get our original date back.
Throughout my recovery, I kept a detailed diary of everything I was feeling/eating/doing over the course of the week (the second week was fairly mild and not really interesting at all). Prior to having the surgery, I found reading the experiences of others both useful and hugely interesting, they meant I was prepared for the worst – and hopefully this diary will be of use to anyone getting their tonsils out in the future!
I am a 17 year old girl from the UK, and it’s important to remember that everyone has a different experience, this is just a guide to mine personally.
DAY 1 – Monday 11th April, 2016
I arrived at the hospital at around 8am, and was whisked into my hospital gown/hair thing/awful hospital pants fairly quickly. Following a lot of questioning and paperwork, I was told to take a seat and just watch some TV and read old magazines until it was my turn. Around 45 minutes before my surgery, I was asked several of the same repeat questions, and put in a bed and was able to spend a while making myself cosy while watching everything around me and just listening to the chat between the nurses. At around 11.30am, I was wheeled off into the anesthetists room, making nervous small talk all the way.
The surgery went completely fine, and by far the worst part of it was having my IV put in my hand. The anesthetists couldn’t have been lovelier, trying to distract me from the pain of the IV being inserted, and trying to calm me down, I watched my heart rate on the monitor, before feeling a weird tingling in my jaw and falling straight to sleep.
In the blink of an eye, I was awake again, but this time, I was crying, God knows why, I was mostly just uncomfortable and was told that coming off the anesthetic can make you irrationally emotional. Even in the moment, I was pretty gutted that I didn’t feel drunk from the anesthetic, I was just sad.
At this point, the pain was roughly a 4/5 out of 10. I was perfectly manageable, but it was really strange. After telling the doctor that, he drifted off for a minute before returning was a syringe of what I can only assume was morphine, out of curiosity, I asked what it was while he put it through the IV, only to be met with “very strong”.
I was then moved to the ward, where I felt pretty fine, just a little tired and dizzy. It only hurt a little bit more when the “very strong” medicine began to wear off, but I was given another pain killer as soon as that was mentioned – sadly, this was no where near as effective as the could-be morphine.
After the mandatory 6 hour wait in the ward, and demonstrating my ability to eat, drink and pee, I was allowed to go home. In the UK we are under the instruction to eat rough foods such as toast and crisps, whereas in America you are advised to eat soft foods, make sure to follow your doctor’s advice, but throughout the week I found that a balance between the two worked best for me.
I still felt fine, just a little achy. Still, I hadn’t eaten properly all day and was starving, and decided to get an ice cream and a tiny packet of chips from McDonald’s. Eating them was completely fine, but I was terrified when I realised I couldn’t taste, after discovering in my research that tonsillectomies can change your sense of change for as long as a year, not to worry though – it came back within the next week!
I managed to eat lots in the evening, although mostly soft things, I was able to eat strawberries and a little bit of apple pie. As tiredness kicked in, so did the ache in my throat/jaw, and I decided to call it a night.
Tip: Bring a chap stick and a source of entertainment to the hospital, whatever they use to hold your mouth open can cause the corners of your lips to split, and in the 6 hour wait after surgery you can get awful bored!
DAY 2 – Tuesday 12th April, 2016I woke up only slightly worse than I had went to bed the night before, my voice was quiet but I was able to speak without TOO much pain. Prepared for actually feeling ok in the day(s) after surgery, I actually arranged to attend a training course at work, as I’d missed my induction on the Monday. Although given the option to delay training further in case it was too sore for me to come along, I knew it was all downhill from that point and just decided to go for it.
Aside from my throat feeling dry and scratchy, it was totally manageable and I ended up enjoying the training. Plus I got a free cold drink and lots of sympathy, which is always a plus 😉
As soon as I got home I had a shower, got into my jammies, took my painkillers and just lay down for the rest of the night.
It was on the Tuesday I discovered that I could eat toast (although painfully slowly), which pretty much provided the platform for my diet for the week.
Tip: Make the most of the first day or two after surgery, just don’t exert yourself any, and don’t fall into the false sense of security trap!
DAY 3 – Wednesday 13th April, 2016
The pain seriously kicked in on Wednesday. It was much worse and so much more uncomfortable, which left me nauseous for the most part of the day. I wasn’t able to do anything apart from lie on the couch, keep taking my painkillers (ibuprofen and cocodamol) whenever due, and watch some films. On any other day I would take a couch/movie day over anything, but I would rather have ran a marathon than endured this.
Food was near impossible to eat, and water was just as bad (something no one tells you).
Around 9pm, the nausea took over, and I ended up throwing up pure bile and stomach acid because of the lack of food in my stomach. I honestly challenge anyone who thinks they have a high pain threshold to withstand stomach acid on two fresh holes in your throat. It wasn’t pleasant.
I used an ice lolly to soothe my throat afterwards, but even that hurt, it was a nightmare.
My mum and dad got me a bucket to keep beside me in case I was sick again, which proved useful in carrying all my things around with me (phone, charger, water, socks, meds, hot water bottle, you name it) while walking around the house for the week.
It was also on Wednesday that I realized how bad my mouth tasted, no word of a lie, it tasted like rotting flesh. It was completely vile and in no way helped with the nausea. Water only ended up making the taste stronger. This part was easily one of the worst experiences of the whole recovery period.
Tip: Gum is a fantastic way of relieving pressure from the jaw, and in turn helps the throat (it also keeps it moist). Another benefit is that it masks the taste slightly, however, chewing gum while feeling sick and on an empty stomach is not a good mix.
DAY 4 – Thursday 14th April, 2016Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did, it was much worse. For about two seconds, I was fine, the worst was seemingly over, however, at the end of those two seconds (after gathering strength to actually peel my duvet back and get out of bed), I felt very suddenly dizzy and faint.
I carried myself to the bathroom as fast as I could walk while steady, and took my place beside the toilet in case any sickness came back. At this point, the room was spinning, and I was sweating through my jammies. Why did no one warn me about this? Was it normal? In the long run it caused no harm, and I wasn’t even sick in the moment – so if this ever happens, or happened during your recovery, it is no reason to worry.
Putting it down to the pain killers being too strong for me, I just folded up a towel to use as a pillow on the bathroom floor. I lay there for about an hour, allowing myself to become less sweaty and disorientated, and decided that actually my day would be best spent in bed.
When I found any source of strength or energy again, I decided to make myself a piece of toast (which took me 20 minutes to eat) and then brushed my teeth to get rid of my awful smelling breath (didn’t get rid of the awful taste much to my disappointment).
I gave up on chewing gum, because I was again afraid of nausea, and in the way of getting rid of the awful taste in my mouth, I just decided that a packet of tic tacs would do the trick.
The pain (mostly ear ache and general throat discomfort) was pretty unbearable all day, to the point where I decided I would put on a film I knew well (in this case it was Toy Story 2 and the original Cinderella) and just listen to them with my eyes closed because I was too tired to keep them open, and the pain prevented any sleep.
At long last, I fell asleep for around an hour, and woke up feeling a lot better and decided to attempt the journey downstairs to grab another piece of toast,
Feeling better was short lived, and I was in tears again about 10pm before taking the strong painkillers again and going to bed.
Tip: Sleep and rest are the best cure, if you can’t do it, don’t do it. Just rest.
Day 5 – Friday 15th April, 2016THE WORST WAS OVER.
I woke up and felt pretty fine until I went downstairs, where I was met with unbearable earache which made me teary again. I tried to make myself a cold banana and ice cream milk shake for breakfast, but just accepted I was going to have to accept that regardless of what I ate, it would taste like shit. Hoping I drunk enough to line my stomach, I took my painkillers.
With the use of a hot water bottle over my ears, the pain eased off and for the most part of the afternoon, I felt ok again. I watched a film, and for the first time since surgery I decided to try a ‘proper’ hot meal, if you can call a tiny bowl of Heinz spaghetti a hot meal. It was surprisingly easy to eat, but again, tasted bland,
The ear ache returned around an hour on either side of dinner, which I just used a fresh hot water bottle and pain killers for.
For the first time all week, I was able to set up and focus on my laptop screen, meaning I could finally start doing school work and online training etc.
On Friday I was also able to drink a lot more water, which helped a lot but brought back the vile rotting flesh taste back, stronger than ever.
Pain: 8/10 at worst, for the most part of the day it was around a 6-7
Tip: Ear ache can be ridiculously sore and hard to get rid of, a hot water bottle is your best shot in my experience!
Day 6 – Saturday 16th April, 2016I woke up with sore ears, and with the same awful taste in my mouth and it was at this point I completely gave up. My solution was just not to talk, and using a hot water bottle to help with the ear ache (for the first time, it was predominately my left ear – I realised this had to do with the size of the scabs on my tonsil beds).
I battled through a yogurt purely so I could take ibuprofen, and luckily got much better as the day went on, I watched some things and went on my laptop again.
My mum (and the doctor) had been encouraging me to eat “rough” foods, but I was still terrified. I decided that I was feeling good enough, and would try to eat a bit of chicken. Which was easily the worst mistake I had made all week.
Although I struggled, I managed to finish it – and that’s when the pain got intense. My ears SCREAMED and my whole mouth (jaw, tongue, tonsil beds) ached as if they’d been shot. The result of this was tears and a fresh hot water bottle, and as many pain killers as I was allowed. Sadly the whole ordeal ruined what had been the best day of recovery so far.
Once the pain subsided, I was fine, I managed to have a bit of ice cream and a tiny bit of chocolate cake and watched Les Miserables while mouthing along to all my favourite parts.
I had a bath, took more pain killers (a considerable amount of time after my last dose) and went to sleep feeling better than I had all week,
Pain: 9/10 for the worst part after dinner, rest of the day was between 5-6
Tip: Baths are great during recovery because the heat and steam softens the tonsil beds, easing the pain, they also help you relax and get a better sleep if you’ve been lacking it.
Day 7 – Sunday 17th April, 2016
Woke up around 10 with the worst ear ache I’d had all week, it took over my whole head and felt like every part of my face and brain were throbbing. For the first time I would give the pain a 10/10, and decided to go against my policy of no cocodamol before bed time – I would have taken anything to get rid of it. The medicine knocked me out and I didn’t wake up until around 12.30pm, but I felt so much better.
As soon as I surfaced and went downstairs, the pain came back. It was no where near as bad as the first bout, but sore enough, and talking was so much harder than usual.
In an attempt to eat a yogurt, purely so I could take some painkillers, I ended up stopping two mouthfuls in, in more pain than was justifiable when eating a yogurt, and the result was me curled up in a ball in tears – yet again.
I hadn’t accepted it yet, but I would soon find out that eating was the trigger for completely unbearable ear ache, no matter what I was eating.
As soon as I felt well enough after my painkillers, I jumped in the shower hoping to at least feel slightly cleaner, but simply standing at this point was uncomfortable. The minute I got out |I was back under my blanket with a hot water bottle and fresh jammies.
I managed to eat a slice of toast, and had several pieces of gum and tic tacs in the 6 hours before dinner – which was yet again, Heinz spaghetti.
The only difference? The pain after swallowing. It was as if I had taken a step down from a couple of days ago, swallowing itself at this point was fine, but it was followed by the most unbearable pain across both ears, and my jaw and tongue,
It all subsided eventually, and I felt fine for the rest of the night.
Pain: 8/10 for ear ache, everything else was just a 5/10
Tip: As much as you probably won’t/can’t be bothered, a shower will do you well. Not to mention that you’re family and friends will be thankful too.
I didn’t document the second week of recovery because most days were the same, not horrendous, but very achey. My tongue hurt more than anything, which I put down to the bruises you get when the thing is put into your mouth to prop it open.
I was only able to do things in 2 hour blocks (per day), so don’t plan anything particularly long for the second week, and be wary of catching even the common cold, Recovery is EXHAUSTING, and it’s hard to explain just how tiring. I was asleep for a large part of the second week just simply because my body was working away at recovering.
This diary was lifted straight from my blog (justifyourewondering.blogspot.co.uk), so I apologise if any of it doesn’t make sense in this context. I hope that this diary will be helpful for anyone curious about what recovery is like, and I’m always open to questions about it in case I forgot to mention something or your want to know more!